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Images and text by Gabrielle.

Here’s a little update on the Girls Room Remodel. I’m excited to tell you about the progress we’ve made! We’re essentially at blank canvas status, which feels fantastic. This is what we’ve marked off the list: updated electric work throughout — including a new full electric panel/breaker box. It’s one of those tasks that requires a hefty chunk of budget, but isn’t fun to show off. : )

We solved the ceiling issue I mentioned here. And we solved the beam and post issue as well. More on those below. The drywall was patched and repaired. New baseboard and ceiling trim was installed. And there’s a fresh coat of paint on the walls and ceiling (Origami White by Sherwin-Williams). Even spray-painted the floor vents white. Like I said: Clean Slate!

Photos and details below!

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Zazzle Home Fall 2014

By Gabrielle. This post is brought you by Zazzle

Last year I wrote about the Zazzle’s revamped home decor department, and happily, it just keeps getting better and better! They offer pillows in square, rectangle and round shapes, with several size options. They have fun kitchen stuff like cutting boards, serving trays. wooden coasters, and tea towels. You can find pendant lamps and table lamps. Also, stickerspoufs — even light switch plates!

Every items is available in thousands of designs. And the extra special thing about Zazzle products is that you can customize them any way you like — you can even create your very own original design that other people can order!

But the main thing you need to know is that Zazzle is running their Warm Winter Wishes Sale right this minute! Get 20% Off All Orders + 50% Off Mugs & Ornaments with the code: WARMWISHES4U. Hooray! Just in time to get our homes freshened up for Thanksgiving.

Tell me, Friends. Have you turned your attention to Thanksgiving and the December holidays yet? Or are you letting Halloween hang around for another week or so? We’ve put Halloween away, but I’m still thinking about what I want to do for Thanksgiving. I really like this Autumn in the City tea towel and am toying with the idea of using it as an inspiration starting point. What’s inspiring your November?

P.S. — I featured some of my current favorites in the collage above. Here are links:

Row 1: Grey & Yellow Pillow, Bike PillowI’m Not a Morning Person Pillow

Row 2: Heart Cutting BoardGreen Triangles Cutting BoardVintage Cutlery Cutting Board

Row 3: Black & White StripesFrench Throw PillowVintage Santa Pillow

Row 4: Gray Floral Pendant LampNavy Houndstooth Pendant LampPlum Blossom Pendant Lamp

Row 5: Modern Colors Round PillowElephant Dandy Round PillowBlack & Yellow Round Pillow

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By Gabrielle.

I enjoyed Amanda’s candor all the way through her interview, but when I read her answer to the final question…well…I adored her. I know what it feels like to put yourself truthfully out there for all the world to see, and I also know it’s not an easy task. It’s funny, isn’t it? Sharing our truths sounds like the most genuine, most effortless thing to do. But it really is difficult.

So beyond all the pretty scenes in Amanda’s home, I really hope you enjoy the gorgeous beauty that is her honesty. Friends, please welcome Amanda!

Q: We can’t wait to meet you!

A: My name is Amanda, and I share my home with my husband, Chris; our two kids, Quinn and Bennett; our two dogs, Vinnie and Cocoa; and soon to be Strong installment number three – name to be decided!

My daughter, if we are at home, is rarely wearing clothes. She’s even earned her own hashtag among my Instagram friends of #nakedjaybird. And, even though she’d prefer to be running around in underwear, she does love to put together her outfits for leaving the house. Her unofficial motto for dressing is “more is more.” The girl LOVES an accessory…or 15. She’s also shown a creative streak in the last few months with her drawings and coloring pages, which makes me wonder if we aren’t raising another little designer in this house!

My son is obsessed with cars, trucks, planes – if it has wheels and moves, he’s into it. At all times he has at least two cars on his person and takes a whole gang of vehicles to bed. He lines them up along the ledge of his day bed and collects them every morning to bring downstairs to breakfast. He is such a loving, affectionate kid. he has been known to tell my girlfriends, “I love you” and is generous with his hugs and kisses.

Lots of beautiful blues, coming right up!

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Maude Blair 2014

Image and text by Gabrielle.

If I haven’t stated it out right, I think I’ve at least hinted that my daughter Maude seems to be an introvert. This is actually new and exciting news at our house! Over the last few years I’ve read quite a few articles about introversion but oddly, had never really applied what I was learning to my own kids, and instead had thought only of the adults in my life as being introverted or extroverted.

But in June, I was having a conversation with Laurie Smithwick, someone who has a combined introvert-extrovert family, and she was telling me about one of her kids needing to take breaks from parties or group gatherings in order to recharge. Something clicked in my brain — I recognized Maude in her description! Memories like Maude opting out of an outing with the family so she could stay home and read, or Maude enjoying a party and then hitting some sort of emotional wall and either mentally checking out, or getting grumpy. Maude is an introvert!

So over the last few months we’ve been talking to Maude about introversion and how it might play out in her life, and we’ve been trying new and different approaches to her social schedule to see how they work. We’re careful to build in space between her social events. We’ve said no to invitations on her behalf when we can see she’s had too much people time. We’ve discussed with Maude that if we send her to her room or the reading loft for some alone time it’s not a punishment, it’s an attempt to be kind to her. I know I mentioned that Maude is thriving these days, and I think part of it is the realization she’s an introvert and our attempt to make her life more introvert-friendly.

Maude Blair 2014

It made me wonder, did we not notice Maude’s introversion because she’s being raised by extroverts and has simply figured out how to mostly navigate an extroverted world? And then I started thinking about the different combinations that might happen in a family. Introverts raising an extrovert. Extroverts raising an introvert. An extrovert-introvert pair, raising only introverts. Or an introvert-extrovert pair, raising only extroverts.

I’m also wondering about people that don’t feel strictly extroverted or introverted. I would count myself among them! Perhaps it is my Gemini dual personality, but I can see myself in descriptions of both extroverts and introverts and wonder if it’s more of a spectrum than sharp categories. And lastly, I’m wondering if any of our other kids will identify as introverts.

Where are you on this topic? Have you noticed extroversion or introversion in your own kids? And are they the same or different from you? When you bought or built or put together your house, did you have the needs of introverts and extroverts in mind? Or perhaps you feel like introvert/extrovert theories are a bunch of bunk! I’d love to hear!

P.S. — In case it’s helpful, this “How to Understand an Introvert” chart has been making the social media rounds. And if this topic is new to you, or you view introversion as “bad”, this book, called Quiet, is a good place to start.

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A Few Things

October 31, 2014

Halloween 20144 Halloween 20143

Images and text by Gabrielle.

Bet your bottom dollar — it’s Halloween!!

We’ve got a big full day ahead. Costumes, school parades, trick or treating, Maude’s friends are coming for a sleepover, and my parents are staying with us for a couple of days. It feels like a finale for October! How about you? How are you doing? And what’s Halloween like at your house?

I have to say, it’s so strange to have Ralph and Olive gone during a holiday. Olive is having a particularly fun Halloween. She’s on school vacation and is spending it with her cousins in England. Ben Blair’s sister Carol, and her husband Dan, are stationed near Cambridge on a military base, and lucky Olive is spending the week with them. She said it’s like a miniature U.S.A. and trick or treating headquarters! And Ralph is having a sort of non-Halloween. He’s in France and keeps forgetting it’s Halloween season because it’s simply not a big holiday in France at all. As you can imagine, we miss them both like crazy.

Halloween 20145

For costumes this year, Oscar chose Frankenstein, Betty chose a vampire, and June chose Annie. These pictures were taken last Saturday before our church Trunk or Treat party. Maude is also dressing up. She went to school as Raggedy Ann. She looks adorable, but she rushed out the door so fast I don’t even have a photo! Hopefully we’ll get another chance this evening.

We have one other twist to our Halloween. Our elementary school is transforming into Hogwarts for the day, so of course, Oscar and Betty wanted to join in the festivities and dress up as characters from the Harry Potter books during school. Betty is going as Ginny Weasley. And Oscar is going as Neville Longbottom. We stayed up late last night making super cool wands and they are both delighted with their get ups.

Gosh it’s fun to see how much my kids like Halloween!

Halloween 20142

I’ll be away from my desk for most of today, but before I head out, here are a few things I wanted to share with you:

- Inspiring Old Masters.

- We need to stop saying babies ruin our bodies.

- I love this Dear Prudence answer — “Stop being callous and miserly and go to Costco, you cheapskate…” Thanks, Michelle.

30 sobering facts to mark the last day of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Thanks, Lisa.

- This costume!

- Gruesome violence is a reality for the women of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This Saturday, you can join with people around the world to fight back. All you need is your yoga mat.

- Creepy food! See more of the artist’s work here.

- “We are rounding up and silencing a generation of schoolchildren, and terrifying those who care for them. We are giving away precious time to teach and learn while we cower in fear.” On lockdown drills from a pre-k teacher. Thanks, Beccah.

From the Onion: I don’t support feminism if it means murdering all men.

- 10 greatest changes of the past thousand years.

- Step away from the screen and make something! Olive Us and SAFTSAMS have a fun promotion going on. Take a photo/video of your kid with something they made, and it could be included in a super cool video! Details here.

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I hope you have a fantastic weekend and a Happy Halloween! I can’t believe tomorrow is November. Is it really time to talk pilgrims and turkeys? Amazing! I’ll meet you back here on Monday. I miss you already.

kisses,
Gabrielle

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Better Water

October 30, 2014

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Images and text by Gabrielle. This post is brought to you by Soma.

Question: how do you guys handle water drinking in your family? Do you drink from the tap? Favor ice? Use a fridge door dispenser? Drink bottled water? Or perhaps you prefer juice or soda and skip the water altogether? This is how it goes at our house: during our France years we changed up our water drinking in two ways: 1) we stopped using ice, and 2) we started keeping our drinking water in the fridge in glass bottles with spring top lids — which kept it ready and cold (and was part of why it was easy to stop using ice).

But I’ve been wanting to figure out a new system, because the spring top lids are tricky for the youngest 3 to open, the narrow bottle necks make them difficult to clean, and overall I feel like we could and should be drinking more water. I think I’m especially feeling it because the week of Halloween is a candy fest, and I’m wanting to combat the sugar with fresh, clean water.

Then, last week I had a serendipitous moment. I was learning about the critical need for clean water in developing countries and about organizations like charity:water who are dedicated to solving that problem, and on the same day I heard from the folks at Soma, who support charity:water with every purchase. I took it as a sign. : ) My Soma carafe + filter was delivered over the weekend and we’ve been using it non-stop all week.

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So far, the whole family is really liking the Soma. It’s easy to pour — even for the four year old, easy to fill, and easy to clean. All key things I was looking for to help our family establish better water drinking habits. Plus it’s gorgeous! But it’s also a sustainable company that I’m excited to support and promote.

We all know that drinking filtered water instead of buying plastic water bottles helps to reduce waste, but Soma’s sustainability goes much further. Soma’s award-winning filters are 100% biodegradable and are made from all-natural Malaysian coconut shells (awesome!), and plant-based resin. They reduce chlorine, lead, selenium, arsenic, and contaminants that harm your immune system.* And best of all, the filtered water tastes so good!

One of the main reasons I thought it could really work for our family is that the new filters are delivered to your mailbox every 60 days so you never forget to replace them. It’s really appealing to me that replacing the filter is automated and doesn’t become an extra errand on my list. Plus, as I mentioned above, every filter you buy from Soma includes a donation to charity:water to support their essential work around the world. So fantastic!

My one concern is that the glass looks so delicate that I wondered if it was easily breakable. But I read that it’s shatter resistant, and is tested with drops from 8 feet! I’m no longer concerned. : ) I was thinking it would be a really good gift for the holidays — one of those gifts that keep giving.

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If you’d like to give Soma a try, here’s a fun incentive: Click here and the first 50 readers will receive $15 off their purchase using code DM15. Go for it!

Now back to my original question: how do you handle water drinking in your family? Are you trying to drink more water? Or are you guys already pros at staying healthy and hydrated? And what’s your take on water filtration?

*Soma is serious about water filtration. The Water Quality Association (WQA) tested Soma to NSF/ANSI Standard 42 requirements for materials safety, and chlorine, taste and odor reduction. PACE Analytical tested more specific contaminants both at EPA contaminant regulation levels and at NSF Standard 53 levels. The Soma water filter has been third-party verified to reduce lead, selenium and arsenic levels as well.

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Halloween for Party Poopers

October 29, 2014

By Gabrielle.

As I’m sure you know, Halloween is on Friday. And that means school costume parades, class parties, and of course, trick-or-treating.

For most kids it’s a BIG DEAL holiday. What could be better than wearing a costume and collecting a bucket full of candy? But I have plenty of grownup friends that have been counting down the minutes till Halloween is over since October 1st. I get it. It’s simply not appealing to everyone.

So I came up with a bunch of ideas for those of you who are costume averse, or have a costume averse significant other. They’re super easy, high impact ideas, and the kids in your life will LOVE to see you take part in the Halloween festivities — even in a small way. Let me save you from being a party pooper!

I’ve shared this little video for the last two years, but I still get comments that it’s helpful, so hopefully it will help a few of you this year as well.

Happy Halloween!

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A New Smile

October 28, 2014

Design Mom Invisalign3

By Gabrielle. Photos by Ben Blair for Design Mom.

Guess what. I’m 16 weeks into Invisalign treatment! And I’m kind of geeking out about it!!

I have been thinking about getting my teeth straightened for years, and finally, over the summer I made an appointment with Olive’s orthodontist here in Oakland, and took the plunge. Ben Blair is doing it too! Which means that next summer, both of us are going to wake up to a brand new smile. Which seems exciting and strange at the same time — I’ve been thinking this over for soooo long.

I confess, I was surprised to find myself thinking about my own teeth straightening, at the same time that my kids were going through braces. Yes, I had braces as a teenager, and assumed I would never have to think about my crooked teeth again. I was wrong! My top teeth have progressively become more crooked as the years go by.

Sometimes I see a photo of myself and all I notice is my wonky smile. I realize that’s a ridiculous thing to think. And then, even though I try hard to talk myself out of it, I find myself smiling with less of a full-grin — a sub-conscious attempt to hide my teeth. There are days when I get over myself and grin away, but other times, I hold back. What a shame that is!

Beyond my cosmetic desire for a more confident smile, a few years ago, I was also informed that I have an overbite that wasn’t corrected when I was a teenager, and that it is getting worse, and that it could lead to dental problems down the line. Ugh. All that to say, getting my teeth fixed has been on my mind for multiple reasons.

Turns out Ben Blair was having similar issues as well. He had braces as a teen, but has seen his teeth get crowded as he’s gotten older. And instead of an overbite, he has an underbite that needs to be corrected.

So we did it. We started Invisalign treatment on the same day!

Design Mom Invisalign1

Honestly, I don’t think I ever would have done it if Invisalign didn’t exist. Throughout the year I have speaking engagements and conferences and in-person events, and there are times where it would not be okay with me to be sporting traditional braces. Even if it was only for one year. I can remember years of my adult life where I probably wouldn’t have minded traditional braces, but these days, it’s harder. If Invisalign didn’t exist, I think I would have continued to put off treatment, like I have done for years.

But Invisalign is so flexible and discreet, that I feel like it’s totally doable. In fact, I’m wearing Invisalign in the photos on this post. It’s a pretty simple system. After molds are made from your teeth, you’re given sets of clear plastic retainers, called “trays”. Typically, you wear each set for two weeks, and your orthodontist might give you 3 or 4 or more sets of trays at a time. Which means you only have to visit the orthodontist every 2nd or 3rd month. A huge time saver!

You also receive two portable containers to keep them in. Red is for the trays you just finished, and blue is for your current trays. I wear the trays all day long and overnight too. I just take them out for eating. And if I’m speaking at an event, or meeting someone for a lunch, I can simply remove them for an hour or so.

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So you can imagine how gung-ho I was when Invisalign reached out about a fun promotion they have going on. I couldn’t wait to share it with you! It’s called the Countdown to Confidence with Invisalign Sweepstakes. You can enter daily for a $100 cash prize, and each daily entry counts toward the Grand Prize drawing of Free Invisalign treatment! Plus $1000 cash!! Such a cool contest. You can enter daily to increase your chances (your teens can enter, too!). I hope you do enter. And I hope you win. And then we can do Invisalign together!

Click here for 8 things that have surprised me about Invisalign.

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By Gabrielle.

Friends, I think you’re going to love this tour. It’s artistic yet accessible. Dreamy and yet utterly down-to-earth. There are a lot of good ideas inside this house that don’t involve a ton of money. Do you have yarn and some found branches? The courage to paint some walls an unexpected color? The bravery to withstand all the expert advice found in the aisles of your local home improvement store…and STILL believe your idea is the best? I think you do!

I’m excited to introduce you to Jennifer Lula, maybe already known to you as the force behind Jen Loves Kev. She’s got all of the above and more. (And I mean it about the more: she let her husband name her blog! Now that is courageous!) Welcome Jen!

Q: Tell us all about this happy little family!

A: Hi everyone! So happy to get to share a little bit about us with you today. I am a former high school art teacher turned stay-at-home Mom. We have two beautiful little girls: Rowan Winter who just turned four, and Finley James who will be two this winter.

Note to self: Buy more yarn. And make cute art.

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The Treehouse: Music Corner

October 27, 2014

Design Mom Music Nook 3

By Gabrielle. Images by Kristen Loken for Design Mom.

Pieces of The Treehouse are coming together, and it makes me super happy! This little corner is in our family room. It takes up the space right below the be reading loft. I love it! Obviously, it’s all about music.

Remember our green piano? We painted it when we lived in Colorado. It’s for sure the hero of this space. Our instruments can look very formal and traditional, so centering them around the bright green piano keeps the whole area more fun. We want music, and our music area to be totally approachable and kid-friendly. I think the green piano nails it!

Design Mom Music Nook 2

The instruments that are hanging around the chalkboard include: an acoustic guitar, a kid-size guitar, an electric guitar, a mandolin, a ukelele, a trumpet, a tiny violin, and two very small cellos. Ben Blair plays the mandolin and guitar. Maude takes guitar lessons, and plays the ukelele for fun. Oscar is studying the trumpet and piano. Betty is taking piano lessons too. (Ralph and Olive are taking a break from music lessons while they’re in France.) Music books and sheet music go in file organizers on the wall.

The tiny violin and little cellos were played by a tiny Maude an little Ralph when we lived in New York. They haven’t been really played in ages, though June likes to use them during family jam sessions.

Design Mom Music Nook 1

The family room overall isn’t done yet. But it’s getting there. The play area needs some tweaking. And the couch is a problem. We inherited the couch with the house and it’s not the right shape for the space. Also, rugs. We need an excellent area rug in front of the sofa, and possibly one in the play area as well. But otherwise, I feel like we’re so close!

As has been typical for this house, I’m trying not to go too fast. But man oh man. Sometimes, allowing myself to take my time with decisions, means that I put off making decisions altogether. Apparently, I have not found the right balance between going slow enough to make good decisions, and going fast enough to finish the room in a reasonable time frame. : )

How do you like our little music corner? And where do you do music at your house? Living room? Family room? On an iPod? Are your kids taking lessons? If yes, how serious is music study at your house? Are you going for “good enough to get a university scholarship”, or do you keep it pretty casual?

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Olive Us: Tree Climbing

October 27, 2014

Olive Us Tree Climbing

Images and text by Gabrielle.

Would you like a peek of our backyard? In this video, you’ll see our oldest three climbing the giant trees that surround our house. This is a different sort of tree-climbing than the casual kind I did as kid — it involves harnesses, helmets and some specialized equipment!

Tree Climbing in Design Mom's backyard. Tree Climbing in Design Mom's backyard. Tree Climbing in Design Mom's backyard. Tree Climbing in Design Mom's backyard.

I hope it will encourage your family to get outside and enjoy the fall weather! And yes, I have also climbed these trees. I’ve only done it twice, but it always feels like such an accomplishment. Hah!

Also, Olive, Maude and Ralph do a lot of talking in this one — which I know some of you have asked for (more talking, please!), so I hope you enjoy that as well.

Tree Climbing in Design Mom's backyard. Tree Climbing in Design Mom's backyard. Tree Climbing in Design Mom's backyard.

P.S. — Here’s a fun fact: I’ve mentioned before that ulive commissioned 20 Olive Us episodes, and this is the twentieth! If you’re curious, since Olive Us launched, we’ve made 44 episodes total. You can find them all here. Subscribe to the newsletter to be the first to see upcoming episodes — the next one is so good. I think it might be my favorite!

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A Few Things

October 24, 2014

Gabrielle Blair and Cindy McCain

By Gabrielle. Image of me and Cindy McCain here.

Hello, Friends. How are you? I’m writing from Washington D.C.. As I mentioned yesterday, I’m here attending the AYA Summit put on by ONE Girls & Women. It’s a short conference (I fly home this evening), but holy moly it has been impactful. We’re learning from the country’s experts about some of the heaviest topics in our world today. Poverty, Hunger, Human Trafficking, Preventable Diseases, Ebola, the World Water Crisis. We’re learning about how these things affect women and children in overwhelming percentages.

There have been a lot of tears, a lot of emotional presentations. And a lot of HOPE as well. In fact, yesterday, we were introduced to Sa’a. She is one of the 300 girls kidnapped by Boko Haram in Nigeria, and she escaped after 48 hours. She shared her story and her experience. I’m still STUNNED at getting to meet her, and honored to hear her words. Amazing.

As I have been tweeting and instagramming the #AYASummit, I’ve received questions from readers about what they can do. And I do have a request. A favor. And it will only take a minute. A long-standing program called GAVI provides vaccines that save the lives of millions of children each year. If you’d like to know more, this page has super helpful information about GAVI.

But it’s time to re-up the funding for this essential program. If you are willing, please use Facebook or Twitter or Instagram to send a message like this to the White House: @Whitehouse – Help save 6 million children’s lives by funding @gavi #AYAaction.

I would be over the moon if you would be willing! Please join me in putting our voices to good use. I know it seems like one little tweet doesn’t matter, but it does! Our collective voices create real change and affect real policies.

I need to return my attention to the summit, but before I shut my laptop, here are a few things I’ve wanted to share with you:

-  This 3-D printed model of a heart saved a child’s life. Unbelievable. Thanks, Ashley!

- If it’s getting kids to read, is it a problem? An interesting piece on the Percy Jackson series.

- Mobile Showers bring dignity to the homeless.

-  Are you a good judge of faces?

Change.org is challenging other companies to offer more generous parental leave policies. Would you or your partner have taken more time if you could have?

- I love the look of this DIY camera!

- A group of storytellers just launched an Indiegogo Campaign for Haven Magazine Volume One. All profits go directly to Freeset USA, a community in India who are building a restorative business and haven for women who have escaped from sex trafficking.

- A guide to being a super woman — even if you can’t have it all. Thanks, Rachel.

- A really thought-provoking read on our schools, and whether they are preparing our children for the future or for a world that doesn’t exist any longer.

I hope you have a fantastic weekend! I’ll meet you back here on Monday. I miss you already.

kisses,
Gabrielle

P.S. — We have a school fall festival and a church trunk-or-treat this weekend. How about you? Any fun plans?

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Jo Totes Giveaway

October 23, 2014

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By Gabrielle.

Okay, you guys. Are you ready for an awesome giveaway? Good. Because I’ve got one for you. Johansen Camera Bags, makers of the famous Jo Totes, is offering a $200 gift certificate!

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Jo Totes are fantastic camera bags. They have all the function you need, but they don’t look like boring tech bags. In fact, you may have seen them before on the shoulders of your stylish friends and not even known they were a camera bag — because they simply look like well made, well designed, totally current handbags.

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With 8 different styles in several color options, there are dozens of high quality bags to choose from. Which means, you’re sure to find one that’s just right for you. They’re made to safely fit your favorite DSLR camera, lens, and everyday items you carry in your purse — wallet, phone, cosmetics, stuff like that. Each bag is a little different, so you can read the descriptions to find out what it’s designed to hold.

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If I won, I think I would go with the charming Georgia Nautical. Or maybe the cross-body Allison in mint — such a bargain I could get one for me and one for a friend. Or perhaps the briefcase-chic, handcrafted, Italian leather Atlantic. So hard to decide!

To enter, visit Jo Totes and leave a comment below — I’d love to hear which bag is your favorite. The winner will be announced on Monday. Good luck!

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Melissa Bell is the lucky winner. Thanks for playing!

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AYA Summit

October 23, 2014

girls-smile

By Gabrielle. Image via ONE.org.

Hello from Washington D.C.! I’m here for AYA Summit. What’s AYA Summit you ask? Well, it’s a first time event put on by ONE Girls & Women. It’s a gathering of bloggers, authors and social media experts to learn about issues affecting girls and women in developing countries. AYA is the name of a hardy West African fern, and it represents endurance and resourcefulness — just like so many girls and women across the world.

The event is taking place on the Google Campus here in D.C. (Did you know there was a Google campus outside of Silicon Valley? I just found out last month! I’ll be attending classes and lectures all day today and for half a day tomorrow.

The line up of speakers and panelists is amazing. We’ll be hearing from people like Danai Gurira, Nick Kristof, and Jamie Drummond.

Why focus on girls and women? At ONE, they believe that unlocking the potential of girls and women, who are disproportionately affected by poverty, is the key to solving many development challenges. And I fully agree!

If you’d like to follow along with the event, watch the #AYAsummit hashtag on your social networks, and be sure to follow ONE Girls & Women on Facebook and Twitter.

By the way, if you haven’t checked out ONE Girls & Women, I highly encourage you to click over asap! The fabulous Amy Poehler is the Guest Curator this month, and as you would expect, her picks are terrific.

Let’s do this! Now’s the time to find out how to use our voices to create a better world!!

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galaxy-s5-and-iphone-6

 

By Gabrielle.

Alright, Book Lovers. Tell me your thoughts on Oyster. Have you heard of it? I first read about it on Jenny Komenda’s blog and was intrigued. If it’s new to you, here are the basics: it’s being called “Netflix for books.” You subscribe for $9.95 per month and you get access to unlimited ebooks in their collection, which features over half a million books across every genre and continues to grow daily. There’s a real focus on design and user experience — you can customize the display settings on the app, and there’s a feature that makes it easier to read in the dark as well. Yes, it’s available on any operating system (Apple, Android, Kindle, etc.). And yes, you can try it FREE for 30 days.

ipad-iphone-macbook

I know I’m not unique in saying that reading is one of my great pleasures, though I have been awful at making time for it lately. But I’m not the only voracious reader at the Blair house. I described Oyster to Maude and her eyes lit up like Christmas morning. As many books as she can read at her fingertips? No finishing a book at 8 PM and then having to wait until the next day to pick out something new at the library? Instant access? She was all over it! And we signed up right away.

Books I Want To Read

Of course, Maude’s excitement has me itching to do more reading myself. In fact, I have a flight to D.C. today (I’ll tell you about the trip tomorrow) and I’ve been making a list of possible options that I can read on the plane. This is what I’ve narrowed it down to:

1) The Steve Jobs biography. Ben Blair read it and loved it when it first came out and it’s been on my list ever since.

2) Angela’s Ashes. I still can’t believe I’ve never read this. I’ve heard I need to be in certain emotional state to handle it.

3) The Girl Who Fell From The Sky. I don’t know much about this one, just that it was recommended to me by someone I trust.

4) The Handmaid’s Tale. This is another one where I sort of shake my head at myself that I haven’t read it yet.

5) David Sedaris’ Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules. I’ve read a ton of his work, but not this one, and I wanted something on the list that I knew would make me laugh.

Speaking of which, I LOVE book recommendations. In fact, I would say that beyond instant book access, the features of Oyster that are most interesting to me are the recommendation options. I can exchange book picks with friends on the app, and also get Oyster’s recommended books based on what I’ve liked before. They also have a really good editor-curated selection that I’ve found especially helpful — I feel like I add a handful of titles to my reading wish list whenever I check it out.

If you’re curious about Oyster, you may want to start by checking out the list of popular titles — it will give you a sense of what you’ll find there. You can also read more about Oyster’s features here. Want to try it? You’re in luck: Sign up and you’ll get the first 30 days free!

Now I’m off to the airport, and very much looking forward to it. There’s nothing better than reading a great book on a cross-country flight! Before I head out, I’d love your opinions on my narrowed down flight reading list. What do you think of the picks? Have you already read them? Any that you would start with? Or avoid completely? And what are you reading lately?

——-

This post is brought to you in part by Oyster.

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By Gabrielle. Tattly with glittery sparkles, designed with love by Bekka Palmer.

When Addie sent me her birth story, she did so as sort of a favor. Or maybe it’s best described as a returned favor. You see, the birth stories posted on Design Mom over the years helped her through both of her own pregnancies and births, and so she hoped that hers would do the same for others. So sweet! And also exactly why I keep publishing these shared experiences: one story – perhaps even Addie’s – might be the very thing a new, nervous, nine month and counting mom needs to read this very minute.

Babies will keep on coming. And while every birth is break-the-mold unique, chances are there’s another woman who has been through something similar. I love the thought that she might very well come here and browse through our Growing A Family series. So welcome, Addie, and a huge thank you to you and all who keep sharing their hearts with the rest of us!

Addie’s sweet story, straight ahead!

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Book of the Week: The Memory of an Elephant — by a French author + illustrator team.

Images and text by Gabrielle.

Last month I wrote a post about four picture books we’ve added to our library, and this month I thought it would be fun to share another four. As you may remember, I’m trying to write less posts this year, but keep them packed with content, so sharing 4 books once each month, instead of one small book post each week could be a great solution!

1)  First up, The Memory of an Elephant: An Unforgettable Journey. Written by Sophie Strady, with illustration by Jean-Francois Martin.

Book of the Week: The Memory of an Elephant — by a French author + illustrator team. Book of the Week: The Memory of an Elephant — by a French author + illustrator team.

Such a cool book! And totally unusual. There’s a storyline you can follow about Marcel the Elephant as he writes and encyclopedia, but it’s also a book that packed with information — sidenotes and tidbits — so you can browse the pages without following the story at all.

And the images! So dang good.Both the author and illustrator live in Paris and the book definitely has a chic French feel. I feel like this book is a treasure.

Book of the Week: Little Pear Tree

2) The Little Pear Tree by Jenny Bowers.

Book of the Week: Little Pear Tree Book of the Week: Little Pear Tree

My friend, Annie, who owns Brimful Shop (and is a frequent commenter here — you may have seen her name), sent this book for June. It’s delightful! The book follows a pear tree over a full year, and readers watch at the tree transforms over the pages.

It’s interactive too. Each spread has lots of flaps to lift, hiding happy little discoveries. A perfect nature book for the littlest ones.

Click for two more titles! Jumping Jack and In This Book.

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By Gabrielle. Photos by Candice Stringham for hayneedle.com and Design Improvised.

You might remember the cute Chicago condo I featured a while back, owned by Haeley and her husband, and adored by their two little girls. She mentioned in her interview that she was moving to San Antonio, and the loveliest thing happened: a few readers reached out to lend their advice, support, and eventual friendship! If ever I needed a burst of positivity to remind me of how lucky I am to be a part of such a nurturing community, this would be it.

So it’s with a huge smile that I welcome back Haeley in her new Texas home. It’s pretty fantastic! Let’s go see.

So much inspiration! I can’t wait to show you!

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Host an Etsy Trunk Show!

October 20, 2014

Michelle Smith and her shop,  Gather, in Cary, NC.

By Gabrielle. This post is brought to you by Small Business Saturday® and Etsy

Small Business Saturday is coming up next month — on November 29th. I try to announce it every year. As a small business owner myself, I feel supportive of my peers, but I also care about the day because small business has consistently been part of my family life — my parents, and especially my father, always had a small business going on to supplement his teaching income. And the small business gene is something my siblings and I seem to have inherited. Among my brothers and sisters, I think we have about a dozen small businesses happening at the moment!

That said, beyond my personal experiences, I value small businesses because I know what an important part they play in stabilizing and growing a healthy economy.

Olives and Grace, Boston

This year, I’m especially excited because there’s a new feature to Small Business Saturday: shop owners and Etsy sellers are teaming up to host trunk shows! I love that so much. The picture of two small business owners helping each other and encouraging their communities to #shopsmall is pretty fantastic.

Clementine Middlebury VT

In the photos here, I’m featuring three of the shops who have already signed up to host trunk shows — Gather in Cary, North Carolina, Olives & Grace in Boston, and Clementine in Middlebury, Vermont. If you’re a shop owner, you can host a trunk show, too! Here’s how it works:

1. Sign up for Etsy Wholesale with VIP code: AmexSBS

2. Find a local Etsy artist or designer who you want to work with. Then invite them to showcase their products in your store.

3. Once you’re official with Etsy Wholesale, they’ll send you your trunk show enrollment form. It just takes a few moments to submit this form online.

4. Lastly, look out for your free trunk show kit filled with good stuff in the mail.*

You can find out more about the program here.

I don’t have a storefront and (sad face) don’t get to host a trunk show, but that didn’t stop me from browsing Etsy and thinking about which makers I would love to team up with. How about you? Who would you want to pair up with for an Etsy trunk show? Perhaps you have a friend who is an Etsy seller? Are you a shop owner? Or do you have small business owners in your family? Have you ever hosted a trunk show? I’d love to hear!

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*Merchandise is only available to eligible small businesses through 11:59 p.m. ET on 10/24/2014 or while supplies last. Limit one order per business. Subject to Merchandise Terms. See Merchandise Terms at etsy.me/sourcesmallmerchandiseterms.

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Report from France

October 20, 2014

By Gabrielle. Images from Olive’s Instagram. Video by Ralph.

As promised, here is a little report about Olive and Ralph and their experience in France this semester.

Olive has been in France since September 1st. She’s young (she turned 13 the week before she moved), and we knew this might not work for her, so we were prepared to fly her back home if she wasn’t thriving. But so far, she seems to LOVE it. She’s staying with our dear friend, Caroline, and Olive says she’s amazed how fast dinner clean up goes with fewer people in the house. Hah! I love that she’s getting to see how another house is run. It’s important to me that my kids understand there are lots of right ways to do most things.

She really seems to be developing a sense of independence — helped by the fact that she lives in town and isn’t waiting on a car and parent to get her around. During her first week, she needed to change her money from dollars to euros, and instead of waiting for a grownup, she decided to take care of the task herself. She walked herself to the bank and inquired about the exchange. The bankers sent her to the post office and she was able to take care of it there. No big deal. And just to remind you, this is all taking place in French.

Speaking of French, she said she’s doing well with the language and can speak mostly accent free. She’s enrolled in the same school she attended when we lived there and it’s been wonderful for her to instantly know people and be in a familiar place.

Keep reading for more of the report!

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